Intouch: Managers abroad

Linley Watson
Managing director, Peak Performance International, chapter leader Kea Melbourne

What prompted you to seek work outside New Zealand?

Peak Performance has worked with number of leading New Zealand organisations including BNZ. That led to contract with BNZ’s owner, the National Australia Bank to provide sales training for around 3000 of their business bankers. Although we ran this project successfully from New Zealand, it opened our eyes to the potential in larger market and we realised that in order to grow the business we had to actually be on the ground here.

Can you provide brief sketch of your current role?

I own Peak Performance International which was established in New Zealand in 1999. As managing director my role is still hands-on. Apart from running the business, my key roles are business development in Melbourne, and resourcing and overseeing the implementation of our training programmes for major clients. I manage talented team of facilitators based in Auckland, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

How does it fit into your career path?

I started out in the IT industry in Auckland and quickly moved from technical and pre-sales roles before finding my niche in marketing. After several years in marketing management roles at Compaq and Oracle I saw limited opportunity to move up and, after starting family, wanted more flexibility, which was difficult in senior corporate role. After four years of consulting, I launched Peak Performance with Deborah Truter. Running successful business is my career goal and what I envisage doing for the next 10 years or so.

What are its main challenges?

As business owner, I’m sometimes juggling too many balls. We have lean business model and outsource as much as possible, but I still oversee the major projects. Keeping up the momentum in this economic climate has been challenge. Fortunately we saw signs of what was to come quite early in the downturn and have proactively looked for opportunities beyond our traditional market sectors, focused on developing customer relationships and adding value wherever we can.

What are three learnings you will take from it?

1. Continually balance the present situation with future opportunities. It’s important to stay focused and do what you’re really good at, whilst continually looking for new ways to develop and market that core expertise.
2. Work with the best people, create flexible environment and opportunities for them to develop their talents and be successful. Our reputation and ultimate success has been built by great people, exceeding customer expectations.
3. Customers pay your bills! I think the fact that it is ultimately the customer who pays the bills, not your boss or the organisation, is often lost in the corporate world. Looking after your customers is No 1.

How do you now view New Zealand both as country and economic/business environment?

I’m proud Kiwi and love New Zealand. Whenever I come back I am struck by its beauty and of course the Auckland traffic! Over the past few years I perceive that the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ has widened and believe it’s much harder for the average person in Auckland to get ahead than the average person in Melbourne.
It wasn’t until moving to Australia and realising how small Australia is on the world stage that I really understood just how minute New Zealand is. I really believe that it would be to New Zealand’s advantage to become lot closer to Australia, and work as one to address the massive opportunities in Asia.
I am constantly meeting highly qualified, high achieving Kiwis living in Australia. In some ways I feel sad that all that talent has gone from New Zealand and many are unlikely to come back. But there’s an opportunity to harness that global talent and figure out how to leverage it for the benefit of New Zealand.

What sort of ongoing contribution/involvement do you, or would you, like to make to New Zealand’s economic future?

I think most Kiwi expats want to be connected with the country and contribute in their own small way. Being part of the Kea network provides an opportunity for me to help Kiwi exporters get connected in Melbourne, which hopefully helps them achieve their goals faster.
We are keen to maintain our New Zealand business and bring wider perspective to our Kiwi customers and we utilise Kiwi suppliers where we can. And from personal perspective, we try and buy New Zealand-made to boost export revenue, and return at least twice year and spend tourist dollars.
These are such small contributions but I figure if the million or so Kiwis living outside the country all contribute in their own small way, the positive effect will be massive.

Linley Watson is member of KEA, New Zealand’s global talent community,

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